Watch a Team of Designers 3-D Print a Model of the Hyperloop in 24 Hours

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 21 2013 10:09 AM

Watch a Team of Designers 3-D Print a Model of the Hyperloop in 24 Hours

A 3-D printed model of Elon Musk's Hyperloop.
A 3-D printed model of Elon Musk's Hyperloop.

Screenshot / YouTube

When Elon Musk unveiled his idea for the Hyperloop, a super-fast pneumatic transportation system, a lot of people didn’t know quite what to make of it. But Utah tech entrepreneur Jerry Ropelato did. Spying a PR opportunity, he challenged the five-member design team at his new 3-D printing startup Whiteclouds to turn Musk’s sketches into a scale model. He gave them 24 hours. From the Whiteclouds website:

After the models were designed in various computer aided design (CAD) software, the group used 3 different 3D printers to print the parts layer by layer. The Connex 500 printed the pillars using Polyjet technology. The tubes are made of a clear UV-cured resin and printed with the ProJet 3500 HDMax. The ZPrinter 650 printed the station platform and the pods. They are full-color and made of the sandstone-like material. The team then assembled the parts to create the scale model of the Hyperloop. …

Ropelato says the team pulled it off in 21 hours. It’s not a working model, and it represents only a small section of the proposed Los Angeles-to-San Francisco project. Still, the video below offers a convincing enough mockup of what a Hyperloop might look like in three dimensions.

More broadly, it shows off one of the most useful aspects of 3-D printing technology so far: the ability to quickly produce one-off models of hypothetical projects. There’s a lot of hype around 3-D printing, not all of it justified. But the technology is unparalleled when it comes to rapid prototyping and quickly turning ideas into tangible objects. As Whiteclouds’ press release notes: “Just a few years ago, designing and building a scale model of this type in 24 hours would have been as theoretical as the Hyperloop itself.”

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.


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